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Systems Thinking for Intractable Problems: From Problem-Solving to Emergence-Seeking

Image representing Systems Thinking for Intractable Problems: From Problem-Solving to Emergence-Seeking

Where have all the simple problems gone? It seems that every group I work with these days is dealing with long-term, often intractable problems. Water management, ag land preservation, housing, climate change, and rural economic resilience all challenge the very way we think about problems and solutions. Multiple layers of complexity often obscure both the obvious and the not-so-obvious.

So what can we do? Clearly it is not enough to simply walk away from these complex challenges, nor is it enough to adopt simple fixes  that often have unintended impacts as damaging as the problem itself. One answer is to use some of the tools from systems thinking.


Tags: systems thinking, systems map, SGMA

From Forests to Farms: a Learning Journey with California Water Action Collaborative (CWAC)

Image representing From Forests to Farms: a Learning Journey with California Water Action Collaborative (CWAC)

The CWAC learning journey was a vivid reminder of the importance of directly experiencing what we are advocating for, of meeting the people who are creatively engaging those limitations and possibilities every day. Members arrived to the meeting fully equipped with ideas, data, and information about the state of California water, but some had never visited a California orchard, dam, or meadow. Using the time in the tour bus between sites, they exchanged and discussed new information and perspectives on California water challenges and solutions.



When Water Works with Fire: FireSmart Lake Sonoma

Image representing When Water Works with Fire: FireSmart Lake Sonoma

We learned that homes can be “fuel for the fire,” or they can be a place where firefighters can make a stand.  We now understand that roads can be death traps for people trying to escape, or that along with landscape interventions, they can be shaded fuel breaks that slow fire and allow it to be beneficial for the landscape.  We were struck by stories that fire is not just an ancient tool for vegetation management by the native tribes here in California, but even in the 1950s was a much more standard tool - and that while fire is to be respected, it is a vital part of California life.


Tags: fire resiliency, cross-sector collaboration

Firesmart Lake Sonoma Community Workshops

Image representing Firesmart Lake Sonoma Community Workshops

Like you, our perspective on fire was forever changed last October. 

In partnership, Ag Innovations and Sonoma County Water Agency (Sonoma Water) are organizing a two-part workshop series called "FireSmart Lake Sonoma" about living with fire in the Lake Sonoma Watershed. 

Find out more about the project and workshop details, including essential resources here.



Creating a Movement

Image representing Creating a Movement

Ag Innovations was approached by the leaders of the Biodynamics Association and the Demeter Association in early 2017 about a project to bring together the biodynamic agriculture community around a shared agenda for the future. Motivated by the upcoming 100th anniversary of Rudolf Steiner's first agriculture lectures in 1924 and the growing demand for biodynamic products, the time was ripe to strengthen their network and get to work supporting farmers, ranchers and the whole value chain dedicated to the biodynamic approach. The work on the project got underway in earnest in January of 2018 and represents the culmination of over a decade's worth of experience at At Innovations helping groups find, articulate, and act on their plans for a better future. The project has three main steps:



Media Mentions

Science news: Designing for uncertainty with Theory U; California’s Delta-groundwater nexus; Missing the boat on freshwater fish conservation in California; Measuring drought in more than dollars and cents; and more …

Designing for uncertainty with Theory U:  “As anyone who has ever tried to work with a group on a complex design challenge knows, uncertainty is one of the most predictable parts of the job. Whether the topic is groundwater management, farm-worker housing, or building a local food alliance, project leaders are faced with the same challenge: they must bring together diverse …

More at Maven's Notebook

Blog round-up: Speaker Boehner blames CA drought on Obama, Public land management at a crossroads, Water wars from the top of the watershed, Groundwater crap detecting 101, and more …

Facilitating California's groundbreaking groundwater governance system: “The historic Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) was signed into law in the fall 2014, providing the first comprehensive framework for regulating groundwater in California. The timeline is tight for local agencies to implement the act, and the state has recognized the pressing need to connect water …

More at Maven's Notebook

Blog round up: Temperature management on the Sacramento River, Economist advise how to manage drought, changing California’s water rights system, Arizona’s Colorado River zeitgeist and more …

A strategic, connected and adaptive California Water Action Plan?  Lucas Patzek writes, “In California’s multiple responses to the drought, there is one key initiative that remains relatively unknown: the California Water Action Plan (Plan). The Plan calls for coordinated action to address the dynamic and interconnected challenges faced by the state’s water system. Thus …

More at Maven's Notebook

Growing Our Farms Forum

Evan Wiig of The Farmers Guild, a fiscally sponsored project of Ag Innovations, was interviewed about the Growing Our Farms forum in Sonoma County. Ag Innovations' project, the Sonoma County Food System Alliance helped produce the event and President, Joseph McIntyre facilitated.

More at KRCB

Hunger Forum Radio Coverage

Joseph McIntyre was interviewed about the issue of hunger in Sonoma County on radio station KRCB.

More at KRCB

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